Atacama Desert, South America – a unique place considered the driest one on the planet! I recently found out about a unique combination of characteristics there: almost no rainfall, skies that are clear as crystal, high altitudes between 2410m and 4270m and close to zero light pollution, which all makes this moonlike landscape one of the best stargazing havens in the world. That’s when I decided that it might be a great vacation destination. And this is what I found out:
Whether you like it or not, the small village of San Pedro de Atacama is going to be the starting point of all your sightseeing during the trip. This kind of isolation would normally lead to relatively high living costs and even higher costs for visitors. Instead, the draw of the star filled heavens has led to an incredible amount of competition on everything from accommodation to tours around the local observatories and tourist attractions – meaning that no matter your budget, you’re sure to find a way to enjoy the celestial beauty of the skies above Atacama. Remember to pack well beforehand and choose the best value. Quality is important and you can have it at an affordable price whenever you make use of coupons and promos from such sites as RetailMeNot or Discountrue.
As far as lodging is concerned, there are over 120 places to choose from, which includes everything from hostels like the Hostal Campo Base (average of $22/night) to the luxurious Hotel de Larache (a heart stopping price of over $1000/night).
Just like with any vacation destination, you can choose to explore on your own and at your own pace. However, thanks to the extreme conditions and VERY long distances between the tourist sites, I would suggest that your browse the wide selection of organized tours.
Also, it’s hard to truly grasp the beauty of the landscape and the amazing views unless you understand something about what you’re seeing. As much as I love Google, there is nothing that can compare to having a guide who shares the everyday insider knowledge that only locals or longtime residents would have.
For example, there is a tour to the Salar de Atacama (Salt Flats) with the first stop at Laguna Miscanti and ending with a stop at the desert village of Toconao. It takes the whole day to complete the tour, which involves grueling 270km of driving and costs around $50. If you work out how much just the fuel on that trip would cost you, then maybe you’ll understand why I say opt for the tour over going it alone!
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